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#RethinkSchool: Back to School Tour Observes Innovation Across the Nation

Throughout the months of September and October, the U.S. Department of Education hosted its Rethink School Tour. This year’s tour consisted of 16 Department of Education officials visiting 46 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia. Department of Education officials met with over 47 national, state and local elected and appointed officials while visiting close to 90 schools and programs throughout the country.

During the tour, Department officials had the opportunity to observe interesting approaches to K-12 and higher education, meet with and hear from students, teachers, parents and administrators and celebrate the many ways rethinking education benefits students everywhere.

Here is what we saw on the 2018 Rethink School Tour.

Secretary DeVos listens as a student shows off a project at the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy.

Secretary Betsy DeVos
Secretary DeVos spent her Rethink School Tour in the southeast – visiting Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. From spending an afternoon at a museum with homeschool students to visiting a one of a kind JROTC program, the Secretary experienced a broad range of innovation in education.

Read more about the Secretary’s trip here: New Approaches That Are Meeting the Needs of Students

Deputy Secretary Mick Zais
Mick spent his Rethink School Tour in the Midwest – visiting Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. He toured multiple career and technical education institutions, hosted roundtables with industry leaders and learned about the many innovative and flexible approaches to preparing students for opportunities in industry.

Read more about Mick’s trip here: Minding the Gap

Principal Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones
Office of Postsecondary Education
Diane set out to Delaware and Maryland for the Rethink School Tour to experience competitive and innovative STEM programs. She had the opportunity to visit a high-tech cyber security laboratory, the university with the world-renowned Meyerhoff Scholars Program, and much more. She even had the chance to fly a flight simulator.

Read more about Diane’s trip here: Highlighting STEM Research and Education

Frank Brogan hosts a roundtable discussion at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School in Milwaukee, WI and discusses the anti-bullying model used within the Milwaukee Public School District.

Assistant Secretary Frank Brogan
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
During his five-day Rethink School Tour, Frank visited nine schools spanning Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Each school Frank visited was unique but simultaneously showcased amazing innovation. Frank’s experiences ranged from a school located in a shopping mall to a school combating bullying in extraordinary ways.

Read more about Frank’s trip here: OESE’s Midwest Back to School Tour

Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett and Kim Richey
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
Johnny and Kim spent their Rethink School Tour in New England visiting traditional public, private/independent and public charter schools, meeting with students and educators and learning how the schools provide support and services to students with disabilities.

Read more about Johnny and Kim’s trip here: Time to Head Back to School and Rethink Education

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Botel
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Jason spent his Rethink School Tour visiting exciting schools and programs in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Starting at futuristic type programs in California, he worked his way through the southwest, visiting a BIE school and ending at the newly-remodeled Kingwood High School.

Assistant Secretary Scott Stump
Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
Scott traveled to Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kentucky during his week on the Rethink School Tour. From education partnerships with aviation industry leaders to a high school’s unique, multiple pathways program, Scott experienced firsthand the innovative ways schools are rethinking career and technical education.

Read more about Scott’s trip here: Creating Pathways and Closing the Skills Gap

Assistant Secretary Jim Blew
Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
The Rethink School Tour took Jim to the western states of North Dakota, Idaho and Montana. Jim had the opportunity to observe how one school is not only teaching STEM, but practicing it every day.

Read more about Jim’s trip here: Practicing STEM Education in Idaho

Jose Viana visits with a fifth grade Spanish speaker/English learner at Afflerbach Elementary in Cheyenne, WY.

Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director Jose Viana
Office of English Language Acquisition
Jose traveled to Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to experience schools that are taking innovative approaches to education for bilingual and multilingual students. He met with teachers, administrators, parents and students to discuss their educational needs and observed the creative ways they are meeting them.

Read more about Jose’s trip here: AZ, UT, CO and WY Lead the Charge for English Learners

Executive Director Aimee Viana
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Aimee visited Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for her Rethink School Tour. During the trip, she set out to explore schools that were implementing innovation in STEM and workforce development with Hispanic student populations. Additionally, she learned how many schools were managing the recovery from recent hurricanes’ devastating effects.

Read more about Aimee’s trip here: Rethinking Education in the Wake of Devastation

Executive Director Holly Ham
White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders
Holly spent her Rethink School Tour out west, visiting Washington, Oregon and Nevada. She had the opportunity to visit six different schools with significant Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations and examine how they are rethinking education and meeting AAPI students’ needs.

Read more about Holly’s trip here: From Language Skills to STEM to Industrial Training, Preparing AAAPI Students for the Next Step

Deputy Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Smith
Federal Student Aid (FSA)
During the Rethink School Tour, Kathleen met with financial aid administrators in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. While on the tour, she had the opportunity to share FSA’s first-ever mobile app, myStudentAid, with students and administrators.

Read more about Kathleen’s trip here: Reconnecting with What Matters Most

Executive Director Johnathan Holifield
White House Initiative on Historically Black College and Universities
Johnathan traveled to Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri to visit three HBCUs for his Rethink School Tour. He visited with students, presidents, administrators and state and local leaders to highlight how HBCUs are educational and economic engines for their areas. Johnathan and those he visited recognized how these institutions can lead the way to help students, people and communities become more competitive in a changing world.

Read more about Johnathan’s trip here: Waking the Sleeping Giant: Regional and State Leadership to Improve HBCU Competitiveness

Acting Director Andrea Ramirez
Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives
For the Rethink School Tour, Andrea visited faith-driven institutions and mission-minded organizations practicing innovative approaches to student-driven education throughout Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas. Andrea had the opportunity to experience apprenticeship programs, community partnerships and more.

Read more about Andrea’s trip here: Creating an Ecosystem of Innovative Learning

Denisha Merriweather
Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO)
Denisha stayed in the District of Columbia for the Rethink School Tour, as she visited the District’s new charter school. Digital Pioneers Academy is the first of its kind, serving and preparing students for future jobs that have yet to be created.

Read more about Denisha’s trip here: Bringing Hopes and Dreams to Those Most in Need


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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

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